Halloween Arrives Early at the South By So What Music Festival
Anytime you hold an outdoor event, you face the risk of running afoul of the weather. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened at the second night of the South By So What Fall Edition festival. Although billed as a rain or shine event, heavy electrical storms forced organizers to shut the event down early for the safety of the performers and their fans.
Fortunately for the metal fans who showed up for the first night, the weather was fantastic, and no such problems occurred. A modest crowd (likely limited by the Freaker’s Ball running simultaneously next door) gathered at Quik Trip Park in Grand Prairie for three stages packed with music.
One stage held local acts. Another featured metalcore and post-hardcore bands such as Finch, Story of the Year, Dance Gavin Dance, and Hawthorne Heights. I, however, decided to stick to the PunkNews.org Stage, which is where you could find most of the more extreme metal acts. And costumes. While it may have had nothing to do with the fact the show was a week before Halloween, there were several costumed bands in the lineup.
Two local bands led off the show. Grand Prairie’s Death Star started things off with a death metal growl. Their hammering riffs got the crowd pumped in preparation for the show to come, and then, almost before it got started, it was done. In order to get as many bands in as possible, the sets for most of the bands were very short – 20 to 25 minutes. It was pretty much a concert sampler, as many festivals are.
Following Death Star was Urizen, the first of the aforementioned costumed bands. The short set length felt even more restrictive here, as Urizen’s shows include a lot of theatrics, including a giant blob monster, robot, and mecha, that cut into the limited time for music. This is definitely a band I want to check out somewhere with a full set.
I had never seen Iron Reagan before, but I recognized part of the band from their roles in Municipal Waste. If you are familiar with the latter band, you would know the kind of punk metal to expect here. These guys are coming back to Dallas on December 16 at Club Dada, so if you want to go berserk in a small, enclosed space, check it out.
A Band of Orcs is… well… a metal band composed of orcs.
The metal onslaught continued through the day with Diamond Plate, Revocation, Battlecross and Goatwhore. The crowd started to fill out a bit, and mosh pits started to form with some regularity. All four of these bands were new to me, and I enjoyed most of them (I somehow just couldn’t get into Goatwhore).
Then, the sun went down, and things took a turn for the worse.
I am a very visually-oriented person (probably why I enjoy photography so much), and the look of a show can affect me as much as, if not more, than the sound quality. Thus, it was with great dismay that I had to slog through the next few bands with pure, static, dull red light. While the solid red might have fit thematically with 3 Inches of Blood, Death Angel and Unearth are both great bands that deserved a little more effort on the lighting design. Miss May I and For Today, at least, got a couple colors of dull, monochromatic light. It wasn’t until the headliners that the production values reached the level you would expect from a show on this scale.
All of the bands mentioned up to this point were limited to half of the stage. This allowed one side to be set for the next band while one was performing. Finally though, for Whitechapel, the full stage was utilized. While it would be hard to call Whitechapel an uplifting band, with songs like “Make It Bleed,” “Possession,” and “This Is Exile,” they did manage to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
All of this led up to the evening’s headliner, GWAR. Performing a different, and somewhat less blasphemous show than last year’s tour, GWAR seemed somewhat toned down. Whether this was due to the number of Christian bands at the festival or simply a different flavor to the show, I’m not sure. Musically, though, the aliens performed a solid set. And there were some of the standard onstage eviscerations, including “The Queen” and Justin Bieber, so GWAR fans certainly didn’t leave completely disappointed.
All in all, South By So What Fall Edition was a fun show, with a lot of great bands. If they put a little more effort into production values, it could easily be on par with the touring festivals. The regular springtime version of the show is being held next on March 14-16, 2014, and will again be held at Quik Trip Park. Visit southbysowhat.com for details as they are posted.
Miss May I
3 Inches of Blood
A Band of Orcs